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Water news you need to know

A collection of top water news from around California and the West compiled each weekday. Send any comments or article submissions to Foundation News & Publications Director Doug Beeman.

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Please Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing. Also, the headlines below are the original headlines used in the publication cited at the time they are posted here, and do not reflect the stance of the Water Education Foundation, an impartial nonprofit that remains neutral.

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Nature’s gift to nature in early winter storms

The current wet spell, made up of a parade of atmospheric rivers, is a welcome change from the last three years of record dry and warm conditions. For very good reasons, the focus during these big, early winter storms is first and foremost on flood management and public safety. There is of course also great interest in the potential of these storms to relieve water shortages for communities and farms. What is not always appreciated is the role of these early winter storms in supporting the health of freshwater ecosystems. For millennia, California’s biodiversity evolved strategies to take advantage of these infrequent, but critical high flow events. Benefits from recent storms are now being realized throughout the state, from temperate rainforests of the North Coast to semi-arid and arid rivers in the south. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Friday Top of the Scroll: In extraordinary move, California mulls crackdown on Los Angeles’ water draws at Mono Lake

Even as a storms shower California with rain and snow, state water regulators announced this week that they’re revisiting their effort to protect Mono Lake from the ravages of drought, agreeing to review how much water the city of Los Angeles is taking from the basin and whether it’s too much. The announcement, which has already begun drawing backlash from Southern California, comes as the giant salt lake and ecological curiosity on the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada has becoming increasingly dry in recent years. The freshly exposed lakebed has been sending toxic dust into skies and creating a land bridge to islands where hungry coyotes threaten to prey on nesting birds.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

New storms set to hit a rain-battered California, with Monterey Peninsula at serious risk

More storms were expected to hit Northern California and the rest of the state Friday, bringing fears of flooding, mudslides and power outages in communities already battered by a series of atmospheric rivers. All eyes will be on Monterey County as officials warn that flooding could cut off the Monterey Peninsula from the rest of the state and shut down major roadways, including Highways 1 and 68. With more storms on the way, the Salinas River region is forecast to receive 1 to 1.5 inches of rain Friday and up to 2 more inches over the weekend, according to the National Weather Service. That could swell the river to one of the highest peak flood levels in its history.

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Aquafornia news The Nevada Independent

Nevada outlines framework for Colorado River cuts as states show their cards

At the end of last year, the seven states in the Colorado River Basin committed to once again work together and negotiate a consensus framework for making significant cuts to water use, an attempt to stabilize the nation’s two largest reservoirs and avoid an even deeper shortage crisis. The states recommitted to considering a consensus deal, by Jan. 31, after several deadlines passed in 2022 — with seemingly irreconcilable differences over how to make painful cuts in a watershed relied upon by 40 million people who use the river for drinking water and agriculture. …… Of note was the comment letter from Nevada, which outlined a possible framework to achieve consensus. It was the only state-led letter that suggested a comprehensive framework. In fact, two other letters specifically refer to the Nevada plan as a starting point for the state discussions….

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Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

California drought outlook improves after weeks of historic storms

No, California’s drought is not over, not by a long shot. But weeks of near-constant rainfall have improved the situation considerably, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s weekly report released Thursday. The map updated Thursday shows most of the state in moderate or severe drought after about seven atmospheric river storms swept through the state since Christmas Day. Only a small portion in the extreme northeastern portion of the state remains in extreme drought, while the northwestern corner of the state and much of Imperial County dropped to the lowest level of drought, termed abnormally dry. The Sacramento and Central valleys, which were in extreme and extraordinary drought just three months ago, have seen conditions improve to severe.

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Aquafornia news Spectrum News 1

State Republican leaders call for more water storage amid record rainfall

A group of Assembly Republican lawmakers gathered on a levee on the American River in Sacramento to call out the state’s Democratic leadership for failing to invest in water infrastructure to aid with flooding and water storage. Around 22 trillion gallons of rain will fall in California according to estimates. However, state Assembly Republicans blame the lack of infrastructure as the root cause for why most of the water will go uncaptured. … In 2014, voters supported a water bond that authorized billions of dollars to go toward state water supply infrastructure and water storage projects. Since then, no new reservoir or other water project has been built. 

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Aquafornia news Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

News release: Metropolitan dedicates Lake Mathews reservoir facilities in honor of former board directors

In honor of their contributions to advancing water reliability in Southern California, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California today named two facilities at Lake Mathews in memory of former board Directors Lois B. Krieger and Donald Galleano. Family, friends, local elected officials and community members gathered to dedicate the naming of the Lake Mathews Multi-Species Reserve in honor of Lois B. Krieger and the Don Galleano Overlook at Lake Mathews. Both directors represented Western Municipal Water District during their service on Metropolitan’s board and also served as commissioners at the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority.

Aquafornia news The Guardian

Bills to regulate toxic ‘forever chemicals’ died in Congress – with Republican help

All legislation aimed at regulating toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” died in the Democratic-controlled US Congress last session as companies flexed their lobbying muscle and bills did not gain enough Republican support to overcome a Senate filibuster. … PFAS are a class of about 12,000 compounds used to make products resist water, stains and heat. They are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not naturally break down, and they have been linked to cancer, high cholesterol, liver disease, kidney disease, fetal complications and other serious health problems. The Environmental Protection Agency this year found that virtually no level of exposure to two types of PFAS compounds in drinking water is safe, and public health advocates say the entire chemical class is toxic and dangerous.

Aquafornia news BBC News

California’s homeless battle floods and storms

Up and down the coast, they have endured torrential rain, flood waters, mudslides, lighting strikes, and downed trees, often with little more than tents or bridges for shelter. “The water backed up to my tent, it’s still going,” said Maurice, who lives in San Francisco and who declined to provide his last name. “Ninety percent of my stuff is still wet. I’m trying to salvage the stuff I do need to keep on going.” … The storm has placed a spotlight on the Golden State’s staggering inequality, and its decades-long failure to adequately shelter and support its homeless residents.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Crisis communication suffers during natural disasters

California, with its serial atmospheric rivers, is grappling with an unfolding natural disaster. Over the longer term, there are many ways to reduce or mitigate risks from storms like these, including promoting good land use planning and zoning to avoid hazards, building infrastructure to better handle storms, and ramping up efforts to address the greater vulnerabilities of many low-income communities. But in the moment, one of the most important risk mitigation strategies involves communication. Communication is the lynchpin of disaster preparedness and response. This includes raising awareness about a storm’s potential consequences, encouraging safe behavior, and enabling all-important communication during and immediately after the storm. 

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Six of the worst storms and floods in Sacramento history

The capital region has faced a series of brutal storms since New Year’s Eve, which have flooded homes, cut power to thousands of families and killed five people in Sacramento County alone. California has sought to control its rivers for 173 years, and the storms will only get worse: The Department of Water Resources has acknowledged that climate change has intensified the risk of flooding in the Central Valley. The state and federal government have built levees and dams, but the possibility of a major flood remains. Here are some of the worst storms to hit the Sacramento area since John Sutter showed up.

Aquafornia news Desert Sun

Water officials’ message: Golf industry must do more to meet ongoing drought

Even in the middle of a cool and wet winter in the Coachella Valley and California in general, officials of the Coachella Valley Water District have a blunt message for the desert’s golf course industry: Take the ongoing drought seriously, because changes could be coming to water availability sooner rather than later. … Golf course superintendents and general managers from throughout the desert listened to presentations on advances in drought-tolerant grasses and technological advances that can help save water on the desert’s 120 courses. But Cheng and Pete Nelson, a director of the CVWD, made the more important presentation on the state of the Colorado basin and how water from the Colorado River can no longer be counted on as a long-term solution to irrigation needs for golf courses or agriculture in the desert.

Aquafornia news CBS News

California’s drought has led to a groundwater overdraft in the San Joaquin Valley

Faced with ongoing drought, farmers in California have sought ways to find a precious natural resource: water. In the San Joaquin Valley, an area in central California known as the breadbasket of the world, people have long bolstered the water supply by pumping from underground basins. But experts say people have been overdrafting groundwater for years. Agriculture is a booming industry in California, employing around 420,000 people across the state and supplying more than 400 different types of crops to consumers around the world. But with limited access to water, and with rain and snow hard to come by, reservoir levels are at record lows. Rivers have even dried up. 

Aquafornia news Wyoming Public Media

Officials are considering building a dam in Medicine Bow National Forest

Federal and state officials are outlining plans and soliciting public comment for a potential concrete dam project in the Medicine Bow National Forest. The dam would create a new reservoir in the Colorado River Basin. Though the water storage facility would be just 10,000 acre feet – much smaller than other reservoirs in the region – the dam would still tower over 250 feet and block a wooded canyon on a tributary of the Little Snake River, according to WyoFile. Building the structure would cost around $80 million, according to a 2017 cost estimate of the project and WyoFile, and the state would pay for the majority of it. State Sen. Larry Hicks (R-Baggs) managed water and natural resources in the Little Snake River Basin for 32 years and is in favor of the project.

Aquafornia news The Guardian

Frantic search continues for boy, five, swept away in California floods

The danger lurking along a country road in central California’s wine country was not clear to Lindsy Doan as she drove her five-year-old son to school on Monday morning. The region, like much of the state, had been hit by a deadly series of storms that were , but the family had traveled through the area the previous day, her husband told the Guardian, and countless times before on their commutes. … It only became clear the road was not safe as floodwaters began to carry the vehicle into a creek near the village of San Miguel. … The search is one of several that has taken place across the state in recent weeks as a devastating series of storms battered the state. The rains and wind have toppled trees and power lines and flooded rivers and creeks, killing at least 18 people, including three in Sacramento county who were found dead in or near their cars.

Aquafornia news Circle of Blue

New Mexico town, still reeling from historic fire, receives federal aid to repair drinking water system

A New Mexico town that is intimately aware of the water supply risks from a drying climate could receive up to $140 million to rebuild its water system after the largest wildfire in state history tore through its watershed last year. Besides being a lifeline, the funds also illustrate the financial and ecological vulnerability of small, high-poverty communities in the face of extreme weather. In the fiscal year 2023 budget that President Joe Biden signed just before the new year, Congress set aside $1.45 billion for post-fire recovery in New Mexico. That’s in addition to $2.5 billion that lawmakers had already directed to the state, bringing the total amount of federal aid after the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon fire to nearly $4 billion. 

Aquafornia news U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Nearly $8 million now available for eligible Klamath Basin salmon restoration projects

The Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service today announced nearly $8 million for three Klamath Basin Salmon Restoration grant programs is available. Partnering with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to administer funds, the agencies are now seeking applicants to submit pre-proposals for funding opportunities of up to $500,000 for Klamath River projects, up to $500,000 for Trinity River projects, and up to $7 million for Shasta Valley projects. On Jan. 19, 2023, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. PST, Reclamation, NRCS, and NFWF will host a joint pre-proposal webinar to provide an overview of each grant program’s purpose and objectives …

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Aquafornia news Bloomberg

Opinion: California storms, floods: managed retreat is the best solution

Like it or not, adapting to climate change will involve human beings retreating from places the weather has made too dangerous for habitation. This will be easier to accomplish in some places than others. On the most difficult end of the scale sits California. In a matter of weeks, the state has gone from being perilously dry to drowning in “atmospheric rivers” of water falling from the sky, in a series of storms likely to continue for another week. Mud and rocks are pouring down hillsides that recent wildfires swept clean of protective vegetation. Storm surges are flooding the coast.
-Written by Mark Gongloff, a Bloomberg Opinion editor and writer. 

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California’s drought has eased significantly due to heavy rains, federal government concludes

A series of atmospheric river storms since Christmas has significantly reduced California’s drought, the federal government concluded Thursday. For the first time in more than two years — since Dec. 1, 2020 — the majority of the state is no longer in a severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly report put out by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Overall, 46% of California’s land area remains in severe drought, the report found, a dramatic improvement over the past month, when it was 85% on Dec. 6.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

‘Endless stream’ of new storms hits California again this week. What to expect

The seventh atmospheric river storm since Christmas hit California on Wednesday, and more flooding is possible as two more are forecast through the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, officials said. Speaking to reporters in hard-hit Capitola, a beach town east of Santa Cruz devastated by storm damage, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday warned about more destruction to come. By Wednesday, the number of confirmed storm-related fatalities rose to 19. … Newsom previewed three more atmospheric river-fueled storms, which should continue through at least Jan. 18, meaning another week of rain, at least for Northern California. Officials said numerous rivers still could flood with the continuing rains.

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